At the 2012 Common Ground Fair, the last he attended before he died, Russell Libby, the longtime executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, gave a reading of some new poems he’d been working on for his wife and daughters.
He had been feeling so poorly from the cancer he’d been fighting that he almost didn’t have the energy to read. “It was really hard but beautiful,” remembers his longtime friend Gary Lawless.
Lawless, who owns Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, made Libby a promise — his Blackberry Press would publish a book of those last poems, including the ones he read at the fair. He published Libby’s “What You Should Know: A Field Guide to Three Sisters Farm” exactly a year after the MOFGA legend’s death at age 56.
The book, a slim volume bearing Libby’s sketch of his land and trees — the sugar maples marked in a neat line — is available at Gulf of Maine Books, Apple Valley Books in Winthrop and through FedCo, Maine Farmland Trust and MOFGA (or through Amazon).
The poems are about the future of Libby’s land at Three Sisters Farm in Mount Vernon, and the role his family will play in taking care of that land. The underlying theme is mortality. The last in the collection, “Things You Should Know,” begins with the lines: “If I could, I would walk with you long enough that you, too, might find your way about without a map or guide, but I am certain it will take a while to share what I have learned these past three decades, and the time to start is now.”
Staff Writer Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org